Tuesday, July 22, 2003

On the mend, catching up

Rare surgery: Half of child's brain removed

By William A. Weathers
The Cincinnati Enquirer

21 month-old Memphis Hart with his mother Sara Myers.
(Glenn Hartong photo)
| ZOOM |
PEEBLES - Sitting in his walker in the living room, 21-month-old Memphis Hart is waving his hands and kicking his feet, shaking his blond hair and engaging in his own version of baby talk.

Just like any other healthy toddler.

"He's a really good baby," says grandmother Becky Hawkins.

But Memphis has had a rough go getting to this point in his short life. To combat a rare disease that caused Memphis to suffer near-constant, life-threatening seizures, Dr. Kerry Crone, a neurosurgeon at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, surgically removed half of Memphis' brain.

"So far he's doing better than expected," 20-year-old Sara Myers said of her son on a recent afternoon in their home in Adams County. "I think he'll just be normal. He can say several words if he wants to."

Within a week of his birth, Memphis was diagnosed with an extremely rare condition called hemimegalencephaly, in which the right half of his brain was much larger than the left half. The larger half, which was malformed, triggered frequent seizures.

In the initial part of a two-part surgical procedure, doctors removed a portion of Memphis' brain in August 2002.

"Three weeks after the surgery he was off all his seizure medication,'' Myers said.

On Jan. 7, Crone performed the second part of the surgical procedure to remove the remaining portion of the right half of Memphis' brain.

"Everything went fine," said Dr. Deborah Holder, a neurologist at Children's who has been involved in Memphis' treatment from the beginning. "He's been seizure-free and off medication. His development is doing well. He's talking. This was a kid who was having as many as 50 seizures a day. It (the surgery) gives him a whole new life."

And while Memphis will always have some weakness on his left side, that shouldn't have any negative effect on his otherwise normal development, Holder said.

Myers was initially reluctant to OK the surgery for Memphis.

"They said it was the only chance we had (to stop the seizures). We thought there was no way he could function without half his brain."

But Crone explained that the brain continues to develop after a child is born and the remaining portion of the brain has the ability to remap itself while a child is still very young.

Memphis remains on a liquid diet because of "a really bad gag reaction," Myers said. "He won't eat baby food."

But a therapist is working with Memphis, helping him with oral stimulation exercises that they hope will correct that problem.

"Every church in Adams County that knows about Memphis has been praying for him," said Hawkins. "God has had his hand in this."


E-mail bweathers@enquirer.com

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